The pandemic of 2020 that swept the globe impacted every sector of the economy but nothing was more severely interrupted than the tourist industry. Not only was travel highly restricted but increased regulations for tourists and airline companies were put in place to reduce the spread of the virus.
Italy has long been one of the world’s premier tourist destinations and usually welcomes over 90 million visitors each year. However, in 2020, the tourist industry in Italy reported that it lost around 120 billion Euros as a result of the travel restrictions that were imposed.
According to the World Tourism Organization, the number of international tourists fell by nearly 75% in 2020, which translated to over 1 billion fewer international arrivals during the year. The massive slump in tourists inevitably had a drastic effect on the millions of businesses around the world that provide food, accommodation and other services for the tourist industry.
Every Crisis Has The Potential To Be An Opportunity.
In 2020, as foreign visitors to Italy evaporated, thousands of businesses across Italy had to tighten their belts to ride out the storm. Museums, piazzas and hotels all stood empty and parts of the economy ground to a halt.
Nonetheless, the pandemic and the economic crisis that it wrought did give the tourist industry a rare opportunity to reassess its business model to make it more resilient to future shocks.
However, it’s not just the tourist industry which is reassessing its practices. Tourists themselves are also taking the hiatus in travel to think and learn about more sustainable ways to experience the cultural heritage of other countries.
What Is Sustainable Travel And Why Is It Important?
Sustainable travel is a type of tourism that takes the social, economic and environmental issues of the host country into account. Although the concept is a fairly recent development, more and more tourists are beginning to embrace it.
One of the most important goals of sustainable travel is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that are produced as a result of tourism. Each year the tourist industry accounts for 8% of the total greenhouse gasses which have a negative impact on the climate.
Every part of the tourist industry has associated environmental implications and although there have been improvements there’s still a long way to go. Greenhouse gasses, primarily carbon dioxide, are produced by transportation systems, accommodations, recreational activities and even entertainment.
All these areas can be developed in future years to minimize the amount of greenhouse gasses that they produce. Better management and planning can be utilized to upgrade existing systems to reduce the levels of greenhouse gasses that are produced but it’s also something that tourists themselves need to be more mindful of.
Sustainable travel is a vital concept to embrace because it can help to preserve the natural environment and maintain the earth for future generations. Often associated with slow travel, sustainable travel is set to become a booming new sector in the tourist industry during the coming decades.
How To Travel More Sustainably In Italy.
Italy has been leading the world in sustainable travel. This trend truly emerged towards the end of the 20th Century and was spearheaded by Italian agritourism. Tourists have been keen to involve themselves with forms of travel that are less damaging to the environment while supporting the local communities they are visiting.
There are many different ways that you can travel which are more sustainable than what you might have been used to. Everybody has their own role to play when it comes to protecting our planet and this includes tourists and visitors to Italy. Even actions and behavioral changes which might appear to be small will quickly add up if millions of people are engaging in them!
So next time you’re traveling, in Italy or elsewhere, why not make your holiday a more sustainable one?
Accommodation – Book Direct.
Supporting local businesses plays a major role in sustainable travel. This not only reduces the carbon footprint of your visit but it also helps to increase the resilience of regional economies. Small B&Bs, hotels and hostels have a hard time competing with their larger rivals. One of the easiest things that you can do to help support the local B&Bs and hotels is to book directly with them.
Of course, it is easier to book your accommodation through an online booking site but when you consider that these big hotels take a cut from every reservation that is made it’s easy to see why they can undercut their smaller rivals. This makes it extremely difficult for the smaller hotels, which not only find it harder to attract guests online but have also been struggling in recent years to keep their doors open in the face of travel restrictions.
Therefore, when you’re planning your trip, call or email smaller hotels or B&Bs directly to reserve your accommodation. This will really help the local Italian economy and you might also find that you actually get a better deal than if you had booked online through a major booking site.
Eat And Shop With Independent Local Businesses.
While you’re traveling in Italy it’s far more sustainable to eat in the small, family run restaurants and cafes instead of major international brands. Avoiding the large chain brands will help to keep the money you spend circulating in the local economy and support regional sustainability projects.
Shopping with local suppliers, stores and restaurants is absolutely essential because without your support they won’t be able to afford to put money towards reducing their carbon footprints or developing more sustainable business models for the future.
Another thing that you can do as a sustainable traveler is to spend your money with small local arts and crafts producers. While you’re overseas it’s always lovely to buy a few souvenirs to remind you of the great times you had. So when you’re shopping for souvenirs in Italy, always try to find products that are made by local artisans.
Avoid The Major Tourist Hotspots.
Over tourism is one of the least sustainable aspects of the tourist industry, not only in Italy but all over the world. ‘Overtourism’ refers to a situation when large numbers of tourists are visiting particular hotspots. This leads to significant environmental damage and build ups of pollution, rubbish and can negatively impact endangered species.
Venice, for example, suffered from Overtourism for several decades. The beautiful lagoons were heavily polluted and the frequent cruise ships that dropped off tens of thousands of tourists in the city dredged up and destroyed the fragile underwater ecosystem. This eventually led Venice to ban the big cruise liners but similar situations are occurring all over Italy.
As a visitor, you can choose not to take cruises and instead, opt to travel by sailboat! You can book yourself onto a yacht or other smaller vessels instead of taking the huge cruise liners to see the wonderful marine scenery.
For example, why not take a boat tour of the stunning Punta San Vigilio? Not only will you be able to explore Italy’s largest lake but you’ll also be keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum.
Generally, you should try to avoid the major hotspots and strike out on your own to find less well known attractions to visit.
Get Off The Beaten Track.
Of course, it’s only natural that you’ll want to see Rome and visit the well known cultural jewels of Italy, such as Florence, Venice and Milan. However, getting off the beaten track is one of the best things you can do to travel more sustainably.
Italy is full of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered and most of these are well off the main tourist trail. By taking the road less traveled you’ll find that you have a more authentic experience as well as helping to mitigate the impact that tourism has on the natural environment. What’s more, if you get away from the standard tourist routes you’ll have a truly unique experience during your time in Italy.
5 Ways You Can Be A More Considerate Traveler.
While you’re visiting Italy try to be as sensitive, gentle and considerate as you can. Some tourists are extremely thoughtless, with some even carving their names onto famous monuments such as the Colosseum! Of course, that’s not something most people would even consider doing but it is a reminder as to how thoughtless some tourists can be.
There’s plenty of things that you can do while you’re traveling in Italy that will make your trip more sustainable but won’t take away from your enjoyment or the experience of exploring the beautiful country’s heritage.
- Each day, take your own water bottle with you that you can refill when you run out instead of buying plastic bottles of water while you’re out. This is especially easy to do in Italy because all the towns and cities have fountains in the piazzas where you can access clean drinking water for free.
- While you’re staying in your hotel reuse your towels instead of handing them in to be washed each day! This may sound like a small action but it really can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the hotel, particularly if most of the guests are doing the same thing.
- If you want to ensure that your stay in Italy is as green as possible then you can book a room with one of the country’s emerging ‘eco-hotels’. These hotels take every measure conceivable to ensure that they keep their operations as environmentally friendly as possible by sourcing local products and installing energy saving utilities. You can find some beautiful eco-hotels on EcoB&B.
- Whenever you can it’s more sustainable and ecologically beneficial to walk or cycle around your destination while you’re there. If you need to travel longer distances then using the public transport system is a better option than taking a taxi or renting a car.
- If you do need to rent a car while you’re staying in Italy, consider renting an electric vehicle. This will reduce the carbon output of your trip and will help to support the budding electric car industry. One thing to keep in mind is that in many rural parts of Italy you might find it difficult to locate charging points for your electric car but in cities and towns you’ll have no problems recharging your vehicle.
Sustainable Travel Is Growing In Popularity And Scope.
The recent pandemic and the world wide shut downs, travel restrictions and regulations have given everyone a chance to reassess their lives. Many people had to put off their travel plans and the tourist industry has experienced some of the worst years on record.
However, as life slowly begins to return to normal it’s a chance for the world to embrace a more sustainable and resilient approach to travel and life in general. As public awareness of environmental issues and sustainability increase they are beginning to make more choices that support sustainable travel and the businesses within the sector.
This is a trend that will only increase in the future as concepts such as ‘regenerative tourism’ start to capture the public imagination. Regenerative tourism seeks to go one step further than its sustainable counterpart. Regenerative tourism aims to actually restore and renew the environment to its pristine condition while still enabling visitors to enjoy it.
Sustainable tourism benefits all parties that are involved; from the tourists who visit to the independent local businesses and the environment itself. The types of authentic experiences that can be enjoyed in sustainable tourism offer you a fantastic range of possibilities so next time you’re booking a trip to Italy you should certainly consider making your holiday a sustainable one.